The Hypipamee Heebie-jeebies …

Last Updated on May 25, 2019 by Red Nomad OZ

The Crater, Mt Hypipamee National Park, Far North Queensland
The Crater, Mt Hypipamee National Park, Far North Queensland

‘I would NOT like to fall down there,’ the backpacker remarked to his mates with that peculiarly British mixture of overconfident understatement and blinding obvious as he stared down into the depths of the crater.

They nodded wisely, unsure whether or not they’d heard something profound, but deciding to play it safe.

Banal though his utterance was, however, he was right. 58 metres (193 feet) WAS a long way down to the green water-weed infested pool at the bottom of the crater. And I didn’t want to fall down there either.

Acrophobics* like me clung to the heavy duty railing to peer over the edge. Mt Hypipamee’s famous crater was giving me the heebie-jeebies. I wondered how long it would take a falling object – say, a human sacrifice – to hit the green depths far below the crater rim.


Mt Hypipamee Crater Rim, Atherton Tableland, Far North Queensland
Mt Hypipamee Crater Rim, Atherton Tableland, Far North Queensland

I didn’t have to wonder for too long.

The backpacker’s girlfriend picked up a stick and casually twirled it like a baton as she glanced at me sideways. Come to think of it, they were ALL glancing at me sideways as they hogged the railing, showing none of the usual tourist hot-spot etiquette whereby each gets an equal turn at the best photo vantage point.

It was pretty obvious I was the only one not of their kind with my tan, thongs and 20+ year head start.  What were they looking at? My hair-dye job wasn’t THAT bad, was it?

Rainforest on the crater wall, Mt Hypipamee, Queensland
Rainforest on the crater wall, Mt Hypipamee, Queensland

After shooting around them without using my elbows for their god-given purpose as they continued to take up most of the viewing space at the railing, I’d taken as many photos as I could. Their glances were really starting to creep me out.

What were they waiting for? A human sacrifice??

Approximately 5.918 seconds later the stick hit the water, trailing greenly through the native waterweed on its surface.

Native Waterweed on the surface of the Crater pool, Mt Hypipamee National Park, Queensland
Native Waterweed on the surface of the Crater pool, Mt Hypipamee National Park, Queensland

Judging by the number of similar trails in the water, I guessed she wasn’t alone in ‘testing’ the depth of the water.

What we couldn’t see, however, was the depth of the pool beneath the protective waterweed layer. Estimated at around 82 metres (273 feet) deep, the pool lay still and silent, or would have but for the stick-and-stone-throwing tourists.

Managers of the stunning Millaa Millaa caravan park where we’d based ourselves in July 2011 on the Tablelands above Cairns in Far North Queensland had given us a list of local attractions. One of several was Mt Hypipamee National Park on the southern Evelyn Tableland and within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.

Millaa Millaa Tourist Park Camp site, Atherton Tableland, Far North Queensland
Millaa Millaa Tourist Park Camp site, Atherton Tableland, Far North Queensland

Although due to a little flirtation with the facts its technically incorrect colloquial name – ‘The Crater’ – is pure Aussie overstatement. More accurately known as a diatreme or volcanic pipe, it’s thought to have been formed by gas from an underground explosion that expanded to form this deep, cylindrical hole.**

The fact sheet suggested the we look out for platypi*** in the pool and I’d assumed them to be the cause of the waterweed trails. But now I knew the REAL explanation, I wondered if it were possible for platypi – or indeed any creature that couldn’t escape the pool’s closed ecosystem – to survive.

Where was a Platypus Whisperer when you needed one?

On a previous trip to the area, we’d discovered Pilchard’s remarkable talent for spotting platypi, as like the Pied Piper of Yungaburra, he’d seen them at every turn along a river walk. After a while, I and the delighted Swiss family trailing in his wake gave up looking for them ourselves, and just waited for him to point them out.

Golden Bowerbird Bower, Secret Location
Golden Bowerbird Bower, Secret Location

But Pilchard, the only Platypus Whisperer I know, was busy at the forest edge (aka ‘carpark’) with a couple of other twitchers**** spotting North Queensland endemic Golden Bowerbird (Prionodura newtoniana) high in the trees above.

Later we would go to a TOP SECRET location through leech-dripping rainforest to see the Bowerbird’s bower – with only one use, the avian equivalent of a teenage boy’s chick-magnet hot-rod (I’ve included a mediocre picture of it to satisfy your prurient curiousity) (oh, and you’re now one of not very many people in the world who’ve seen a Golden Bowerbird’s bower)(albeit virtually).

But a more than passing knowledge of the mating habits of bowerbirds wasn’t going to help me with the platypi question. And neither were the backpackers who, having confirmed the depth of the diatreme wasn’t an illusion with their scientific stick, left in a gaggle, speaking loudly of their impending pub-crawl.

Green rainforest all the way down to the green water ... Mt Hypipamee Crater
Green rainforest all the way down to the green water … Mt Hypipamee Crater

And now, gazing into the green waterweed down the green, green vegetation clinging to the granite wall 70 metres (233 feet) away on the other side was making my eyes go funny. If there WERE platypi, they hadn’t made an appearance yet.

I peered more closely into the depths. Was there a movement?

Forget the platypi.  Could there be a Ness-like monster lurking in the depths, trapped by time and a prehistoric explosion?

I wondered whether the Mt Hypipamee Crater had ever claimed a victim. A little introspection goes a long way in a place like this Or maybe I just needed to get back to normality.

That is, if a group of twitchers intent on hunting down a (feathered) bird’s love nest was normal. But it says a lot for the Mt Hypipamee Heebie-Jeebies that as I emerged from the rainforest into the relative sanity of the car park, it was!!

* Acrophobia = fear of heights

** According to the Tablelands Parks and Forests brochure produced by Queensland Parks & Wildlife Service

*** Platypi = more than one platypus

**** twitcher = birdwatcher

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  1. @Christopher Allen – Haha, it’s the world’s worst crime!!
    @Jonathan Fearne – OMG, that’s even scarier than being stuck above a massive crater with a group of backpackers intent on throwing something into the water!!! Had there been other similar reports?? Or maybe whatever it was just didn’t like the look of YOU!! I’ll be keeping my eyes & ears open next time we go there … although not sure I’d be there at dusk, you’re WAY braver than I 🙂

  2. We were there just after christmas 2013 on dusk, the only ppl in the park. Strong smell of rotten eggs, animals all went silent then crashing thru the Bush came a watermelon sized rock which I saw land at my feet from in front and then a terrifying guttural growl just near where my wife was in eyesight of the car off to my left. Only 2 creatures throw rocks, humans and primates. This was a huge 20 + odd kilo rock, didn’t see what threw it but Im 6ft1 and can’t hurl a watermelon sized rock more than a few feet.. This came thru thick vegetation and I couldn’t see what threw it..scared the scrap out of us, we left in a hurry and I reported it..

  3. @SaucyKod – Haha, you’ve uncovered my secret plan! Favourite campsites is a post I’ve been thinking about for awhile … stay tuned!! And I’m sure there are MANY alternative meanings for ‘twitcher’ – and more than one would apply to birdwatchers!!!
    @FruitCake – Yeah, that and killing native wildlife etc etc … But yes, a dog would sink without a trace in the green hole of the Crater! I’ve always been partial to Saskatchewan …
    @Freya – Welcome and thanx! For a world unlike any other, head down to the magical land of OZ!

  4. Aahh.. so that’s why dogs are banned from so many national parks – we’d never get D’Arcy back if he chased sticks in a setting like that! And that drop looks eerily enticing.

    Heights are terrifying enough, but a leech dripping rainforest is NOT on my bucket list.

    Hypipamee has now replaced “Popocatepetl” as my favourite fun place name – and it’s Australian!

  5. WOW, Red, this is spectacular. Love the campsites you show on your journeys. Perhaps, one day, you might do a post on some of your favourites 🙂 That drop into the pond would make me jitter and as for Monsters lurking about in the depths – probably come out at night to feed. Funny word “twitter”, never heard it used that way – I kinda figured it was someone who “twitched” a lot, uncomfortable like.h-m-m-m Great, Super Post – loved it. Take care

  6. @PDP – I think they were just waiting for me to leave so no one would see them throw the stick. Either that, or I had something hanging out of my nose …
    @Iris – I have put in a query about it – the month selection thing was working a couple of weeks ago. Will let you know!
    @JallieDaddy – It’s amazing how well they turned out on an overcast day!
    @Mary – Haha … I wonder if there ARE any hidden secrets lurking in the depths …
    @Joan Elizabeth – It’s just green on the surface – I guess! And yes, that is our home on wheels!
    @Sallie – I suspect our ‘normal’ and your ‘normal’ are very similar!

  7. @Go Camping Australia – HAhaha, that’s what’s so good about reading!!!
    @MJWC – It IS beautiful in an eerie, colour coordinated kind of way! Rainforest green ROCKS!
    @Masshole Mommy – LOVE your name!! And it IS amazing – aren’t you glad you dropped by? This is one way to escape your winter!!!
    @Hilda – Hahaha!! I know EXACTLY what you mean!
    @Kath – Yeah … the bowerbird is the Casanova of the avian world!!!

  8. Don’t like your water pool … reminds me that my garden pond is green like that 🙂

    The neighbour has a Satin Bowerbird’s nest in their front yard.

  9. Rude tourists be damned. The photos of this place are spectacular. You might want to contain those comments about human sacrifice. You never know :-). Have a great evening. Blessings…Mary

  10. Red, I need your help with the Loo Calendar… with FF or IE (new and old versions both) I can only take January 2013 as Starting Month.
    I´d need September 2013… (as you can see it´s not an urgent cry for help ;-)…)

    Hmmm, dunno. Ingo has no fear of height at all and offers a hand, too. Still getting worse with every year with me…

  11. I will have serious problems with that crater. Even looking at it virtually is giving me the heebie-jeebies.

    Learning about that Bowerbird’s bower was fun though!

  12. I’m visiting from Terri’s blog. Your photos are fantastic! I enjoyed this post, but you’re far braver than I am. My fear of heights is so bad that I don’t think I could even peer over the railing!

  13. Did you ever find out what the gawping tourists were staring at, so weird! You were 100% braver than I Red, there is no way I could have brought myself anywhere near looking over, soo glad you did!! That campsite looks like heaven compared to the one I visited ( not stayed) over the weekend.

  14. Oooherrrr, I don’t like the look of that green murk at all!

    ‘Golden Bowerbird’s bower’ – “Come on back to my bower and I’ll show you my etchings.”

  15. Everything is looking so green over there. That is one green slimy looking water hole at the bottom of that crater. For some reason, you make it look beautiful.

  16. grand post as always Red. Fabulous photos and info’ – I wondered too quite what might actually live in those depths? What an amazing place and amazing that you didn’t get to photograph any clinging leeches after your trek for the bowerbird nest too.

  17. @Carole M – Who knows that there’s some weird relic from the stone age living down there? I actually don’t know if anyone’s checked!!
    @TMWH – Sympathy appreciated!!! But it WAS very beautiful – maybe the scare factor makes it more so?
    @Toni – Sorry! But glad to generate some happy memories?? Yes, Dinner Falls was great – but VERY hard to get a good shot!! Thankfully the leeches stayed away for us!!
    @Filip – Thank you! And nature continues to amaze me!!
    @Cheryl – Welcome!! Weird – I always see myself as a bit of a coward!! Come back & visit & we’ll beat that fear together!!
    @River – It IS stunning! You should put at least a week on the Atherton Tableland into your travel wish book!!

  18. @Inverness DP – Haha! You probably COULD get platypi pie – but then you’d be arrested because they are SO protected!
    @LONDONLULU – Haha, keep on coming back, my friend! It’ll be a LONG hot summer down here!
    @Windsmoke – I’ve seen them a few times in the last few years, but it’s getting rarer. Bummer about the airport – are we sure we’ve got our priorities right, I wonder!
    @Andrew – I’ll live for the day when you’ll say BOTH things about a post!!! I believe you’re right about the platypi living conditions – I’d be VERY surprised if they actually lived down there.
    @Tanya – As long as the edge of the seat is as far as it goes …
    @eileeninmd – The green is from waterweed -but the water isn’t actually used for anything, so probably doesn’t matter if it’s healthy or not!

  19. @diane b – Hahaha! There’d be no trace if they did …
    @Linley S – Scary, huh?! Chances are, if you’re doing the Tableland hotspots, you’ll drive right past the turnoff!
    @Fun60 – Not sure what it is about heights that’s so scary – but with this one, it’s the chance of disappearing without a trace!
    @Beach Bum – If you DID fall in and actually survived the fall, it’d be incredibly difficult for a rescue operation!
    @Taken for Granted – You got that right!!!
    @SFlaGuy – Hahaha! We do EVERYTHING supersized downunder!! And the platypus is endemic to OZ!
    @Iris – My fear is actually getting better. Maybe because Pilchard has NO fear and it’s rubbing off???!!!

  20. Only one very pretty photo has loaded, so I’ll come back tomorrow for another look. It does look like a stunning area.

  21. Beautiful colors, beautiful nature! The texture looks amazing, so “soft”, nearly creamy. And such a great place to camp!
    Yikes, I´m afraid of heights, too, gets worse, the older I get. Hear that from a lot of people.

  22. Oh, I’m SO HOMESICK *sobs a little*

    Did you see Dinner Falls? we used to swim there as little kids. It’s freezing and full of leeches, but NQ kids are tough.

  23. I got the sympathy heebie-jeebies just picturing you trying to look over the rail! Eeeek!

    On the other hand, that is some serious GREEN…

  24. It does look like a long way down and the green water does not look very healthy? it is a pretty place though, a shame the tourist would not give you room at the railing. You are so nice to keep your elbows to yourself, lol! Beautiful photos.

  25. People talk about Australians being obnoxious when overseas but I’ve seen more obnoxious behaviour by people from other countries when travelling that I have Australians.

    Don’t platypi need running water to live? I can’t imagine them living in the green weed but I suppose the ‘fact sheet’ does no harm for tourism.

    For a change from saying beautiful photos, this time, a very interesting post.

  26. I’ve seen a platypus in the wild when i was a little tacker playing in a creek/stream at Bulla/Oaklands Junction before Melbourne Airport was built.

  27. I think you got me on the Platypi. I don’t believe we have a related species either foreign or domestic roaming the glades. My first thought on seeing your opening photos was Pitcher Plant. We have plenty of those but not in the large, economy size like this one.

  28. Acrophobics* like me clung to the heavy duty railing to peer over the edge.

    My wife is also scared of heights, so much that when we drive over any bridge she slides down very low in the seat so she cannot see anything.

    Got to admit that Crater does send chills down my spine because it appears to be so inaccessible.

  29. Wow, you would never find anyone if they did go over the railing. That’s a spot to put on my must see list when we head over that way next.

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